As COVID 19-induced uncertainty continues to swirl around this fall’s learning format for districts across the country, Northfield Public Schools is evaluating several options.
Possible learning formats include a complete return to face-to-face instruction, continuing with only distance learning, or a hybrid option.
Northfield Superintendent Matt Hillmann said although uncertainty abounds, COVID-19 will undoubtedly still be present in the U.S. later this summer. He added the district will rely on public health conditions to guide their decision.
“We will prepare for all of those options,” he said.
Minnesota Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Heather Mueller will reportedly present the framework and guidance on fall instruction to school districts across the state Monday and is considering requiring health screenings and factoring in logistics in the process.
“Our administrative team has just done a phenomenal job,” said School Board Chairwoman Julie Pritchard on the consideration process so far.
She anticipates a hybrid distance learning/in-person model will be in place this fall, adding some students did well in a distance learning environment, while others thrived with face-to-face instruction.
Hillmann anticipates a decision on fall sports will be made at the same time when the academic format is finalized, which is expected in late July. He said the athletic calendar could also be changed later in the 2020-21 school year, depending on whether a second COVID-19 wave strikes.
The district has already been forced to make changes due to the pandemic. Students have been in a distance learning mode since March. Administrators have temporarily altered the grading structure to accommodate the changes. In the fourth quarter, Northfield Middle School moved to a pass/fail system. The fourth-quarter pass/fail border was lowered from 60% to 50%. At Northfield High School, As and Bs were calculated, while Cs and Ds counted as a P for passing.
School Board member Ellen Iverson said she’s been pleased with communication to families and the use of surveys that have gauged opinions on distance learning.
“That went very well in terms of feeling that people were informed, as much as we could learn about with things changing rapidly,” she said.
Iverson said although she would rather have in-person instruction this fall, the No. 1 consideration on whether to do so will be the safety of students, staff and their families. She added the most likely scenario is a hybrid of distance learning and in-person instruction.